How to form healthy habits that stick

How many of you set goals for the New Year? How are you getting on with them? Are you still on track; exercising that daily control of self-discipline? Or did they fall by the wayside after only a few days? And after such an awful 2020, who could blame you. Maybe you have taken Lent as an opportunity to kick start it again? And why is it so hard to make these changes in the first place?

Well, a habit starts with either a need or a desire. As a child, I need to start walking because I want to access the toys that are out of my reach. As a teenager, I might start smoking because I have a desire to fit in. In short, there has to be a reason that motivates us into action. 

While we’re still learning the steps involved with whatever our new habit is, we have to consciously think through each action we take. In doing so, our mind starts to create a pathway to store this information, so that when we want to do it in the future, we no longer need to actively think of how, instead we just do.

There are many books that state it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but I don’t buy into that. What happens if the thing that you want to change, you only do once a week? And on the opposite end of the scale, how many times do we see women exercising this self-control when they fall pregnant? Overnight we see them give up smoking, drinking, eating the foods that they love; taking steps to stay safe. 

How do they bypass the ‘21 days’ rule? Well, the truth is, it’s often for something bigger than themselves. For many women, from the moment they fall pregnant, their child is their world and they would do anything to protect them. And while that is a great motivator, why is it that you are not enough by yourself? Why can’t you, alone, be the reason you make a change? 

Then there are our triggers to consider – when something happens that takes us right back to square one. For example, when an ex-smoker is in a stressful situation, they turn to cigarettes to cope. And stress is probably the most common trigger that will break down any new habits. But is it really the cigarette that is managing our stress? Or is it actually taking that moment to walk away from what is causing the stress? How many of us can honestly say that we take some time out of the situation, other than those of us that smoke?   

So now we have delved into our inner psyche and have a bit more understanding of what drives the bad habits, let’s take a look at how we can start making changes and forming healthy new habits. 

Making a change

First, there must be a need or a desire to change. And, if I’m honest, desire probably ranks higher than our needs. How many of us have been told by the doctor to give up smoking, lose weight or cut down on alcohol, and yet we still indulge because our desires have ranked higher? The same can be said when we try to do something for someone else. Unless we share that desire, it’s unlikely that it will be enough to succeed. You have to want the change. You have to be enough, all by yourself, to want this, for you. 

Then it comes down to self-control and discipline. Or does it? What do those terms conjure up in your mind when you think of them? Deprivation? Missing out, maybe? What incentive does that give your mind to change? 

Let’s flip this around and look at it for what it actually is. It’s a choice. It’s your choice. Do you want the change or don’t you? And if you don’t want to change, that’s OK. Nobody is forcing you. And how empowering is that? That every time, you get to choose whether you do something or not. You have complete autonomy over your actions. 

And with this power, you lose your inner critic. The voice that is bullying you each time you slip up is finally quiet. Because how can you bully yourself if, at that moment, you took a pause to think about your options and make a choice. Maybe it goes against the overall plan, but in that moment, you would’ve known that and made the choice anyway, and that is perfectly OK. 

When we choose to change, we are making the choice that is right for us at the time and with it will come a whole heap of benefits that we can focus on.

Quieting our inner critic

We don’t need a set date to make a change. We don’t need to wait until January, nor do we have to finish the last cigarette in the packet. All this does is tell our brains that it’s not what we truly want. That temptation needs to be removed for us to succeed. So what happens when temptation is put back into our paths? We fail. But by making a choice to change right now, it tells your mind that none of those other things matter because you want the change. It’s what you have chosen. 

And while we all hold on to our inner bully as if this is helpful, why don’t you instead try to be kind to yourself. Don’t tell yourself off for making a mistake. Instead, every time you choose to make the change, think about how that feels. How does it feel to be empowered to make that choice? How does it feel to have a life without the habit? Focus on things like your energy, or your mood. How you sleep differently at night now, or how your confidence has grown. When we choose to change, we are making the choice that is right for us at the time and with it will come a whole heap of benefits that we can focus on. And it is this that will motivate us each time to continue. 

Our minds are complicated beasts. We’ve seen the role self-esteem has on our success. We know our inner critic is unhelpful and, yet, we cling on to them as our guiding voice. It’s hard to break free from a lifetime of negative self-talk. But this is where hypnotherapy can help. 

Hypnotherapy can be great in its own right for helping you to form healthy habits. But, by quieting your conscious thoughts, it can draw upon existing learned behaviours and work to create new pathways that will get stronger over time. And that is a fantastic quick win. But what about the long term? Do you really want to go to hypnotherapy every time you want to make a change in your life? Wouldn’t it be better if you could work with a hypnotherapist on your self-worth and tackling this inner critic so that you could be enough to make the change for yourself in the future? 

If so, then choose hypnotherapy as the first step to choosing you.

If you’re ready to make a change, you can connect with a hypnotherapist today. Simply browse profiles until you find the person you resonate with, then send them an email.

Looking for more tips and advice on changing mindset and motivation? Watch our webinar with hypnotherapist, Sophie Parker.

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Written by Melanie Peak
Melanie Peak is a trained hypnotherapist and freelance writer for Hypnotherapy Directory. She is also a mental health blogger at The Balanced Mind (
Written by Melanie Peak
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